The false security of a full schedule
Booking strategies important to keep patients happy, ODs stress levels down
The answer is the system
Proper scheduling techniques depend heavily on the practice’s situation. The most important factor is that having an established system in place and adjusting it frequently based on your ever-changing circumstances. New practices with plenty of openings may be a perfect place for pre-appointments, but a “booked-out” practice trying to attract new patients should consider discontinuing their pre-appointment
Define the primary scheduling objective of your practice by deciding which is more important:
• Availability for new patients within the next few days
• Comfort of a full appointment book for the next few weeks
Consider this strategy
Commit to keeping your schedule 80 percent, instead of 100 percent, full. Full capacity is measured at 100 percent and anything over that causes stress and strain. Think about what happens to a balloon when it exceeds capacity. If you are booked at 100 percent and add an emergency appointment, it is difficult to perform at your best.
Reserve the final 20 percent of your appointments for emergencies, urgencies, and new patients. This allows you to add patients who call and want to come in today or tomorrow without over-stressing the practice. The challenge comes when a loyal, long-time patient wants one of those final spots. The team needs to be reminded of the practice’s policy because loyal patients are more willing to wait.
The strategy listed is not perfect for every practice, but it is a strategy with clear definitions, goals, targets, and room for flexibility. Every scheduling plan needs clear direction.
1. Collier M, Bashman LM. Patient loyalty: It’s up for grabs. Accenture 2014 Consumer Health Study. 2016. Available at: https://www.accenture.com/t20160322T034105__w__/us-en/_acnmedia/Accenture/Conversion-Assets/DotCom/Documents/Global/PDF/Strategy_7/Accenture-Strategy-Patient-Engagement-Consumer-Loyalty.pdf. Accessed 3/15/17.
2. Berg B, Murr M, Chermak D, Woodall J, Pignone M, Sandler RS, Denton B. Estimating the cost of no-shows and evaluating the effects of mitigation strategies. Med Decis Making. 2013 Nov;33(8):976-985.